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IT overlooked as potential cluster for development

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Information technology is one of New Mexico’s most ubiquitous high-tech sectors, but to date, no targeted cluster-building strategies have emerged to support it, and no official studies have quantified its impact on the state economy.

“IT underpins every industry sector, but it’s been largely overlooked as a high-tech cluster,” said Patricia Knighten, former director for the Economic Development Department’s Science and Technology Office. “Data analytics, modeling and simulation are particularly important. They’re probably our strongest asset area at the national labs.”

A broad array of IT companies are flourishing across the state, from website and app-development firms to network system integrators and cybersecurity enterprises.

Many homegrown startups are growing rapidly, such as the data analytics firms Descartes Labs and RS21, cybersecurity company RiskSense, and point-of-sale software startup Lavu Inc. And the state has successfully recruited out-of-state companies to New Mexico, such as Georgia-based Rural Sourcing, which offers software development and related maintenance and support services.

With artificial intelligence providing foundational support for most technologies today, New Mexico’s IT activity is destined to grow exponentially alongside other industry clusters.

“There’s a real convergence now, because everything is getting connected,” Knighten said. “In the future, you won’t see any manufacturing without artificial intelligence. And it’s easy for entrepreneurs to step into it because they don’t need facilities and other infrastructure, just a computer.”

That, in turn, is providing stable, high-paying jobs for the local workforce, said Lisa Kuuttila, the University of New Mexico’s chief economic development officer and head of the Science and Technology Corp., UNM’s tech-transfer office.

“Developers here are being poached by other companies,” Kuuttila said. “That’s a significant milestone if our talent is going from one opportunity to another here. That’s positive, because we want them to stay here and work for local companies, not go to the Silicon Valley or Google.”

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